Former Furman star receiver and Wagener native Dez Kitchings Friday was added to the USC coaching staff during a conference call between athletics director Ray Tanner and the school’s Board of Trustees. A one-year contract for $300,000 was approved for Kitchings who had been the running backs coach at NC State. He replaces receivers coach Bryan McClendon on the staff. McClendon is headed to Oregon. Joe Cox will move from tight ends to receivers and Bobby Bentley shifts from running backs to tight ends. The board also approved one year contract extensions for Bentley and defensive assistant Mike Peterson.
Here’s more on the Kitchings’ hiring from the USC release:
“We’re excited to add Des to the staff,” said Coach Will Muschamp. “I was impressed by him in the interview process, with his history with running back play and with his ties in the state of North Carolina, which should be a huge asset in recruiting. He was endorsed by everyone he has worked with and we are fortunate to bring him back to his home state.”
Kitchings, a native a Wagener, S.C., has spent the past eight seasons coaching the running backs at North Carolina State. He had the additional duties as the tight ends coach in 2012, as the recruiting coordinator from 2014-18, as the assistant head coach for offense from 2016-18, and as the co-offensive coordinator in 2019.
Under Kitchings tutelage, NC State produced three-straight 1,000-yard rushers from 2016-18 for just the second time in school history. In 2016, Matthew Dayes was the first 1,000-yard rusher at NC State since 2002, and in both 2017 and 2018 first-year starters Nyheim Hines and Reggie Gallaspy Jr., also reached that mark. Hines was named first-team All-ACC in 2017 after leading the conference in all-purpose yards, the Pack’s first running back to earn first-team honors since 2002, and was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Gallaspy tied the NC State school record with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2018, a mark that ranked fifth nationally.
“I’m very excited to come to South Carolina for several reasons,” said Kitchings. “One, to join Coach Muschamp and his staff. I’ve been impressed watching what they’ve been doing to build the program and I look forward to being part of that staff. Secondly, I’m excited about returning to my home state. Personally, it’s a blessing for me to be closer to my parents and family in South Carolina. I’m also excited about coaching that room,” continued Kitchings. “They have recruited well and there are some young, talented backs on the roster that I’m looking forward to coaching and helping the Gamecocks win games.”
Kitchings’ 16-year coaching career began at his alma mater, Furman, working as the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator from 2004-07. During his tenure, the Paladins went 10-3 and captured a conference title in 2004, and advanced to the NCAA I-AA national semifinals in 2005.
His next stop was in the SEC, working at Vanderbilt from 2008-10, including one season as the offensive coordinator. He was a key factor in the development of true freshman tailbacks Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, who ranked 1-2 on the team in rushing in 2009, with Norman producing one of the finest all-purpose campaigns ever by an SEC freshman. Prior to his arrival in Raleigh, Kitchings spent one year (2011) at Air Force when the Falcons ranked third nationally in rushing averaging (314.8 yards per game) and in rushing touchdowns (43).
Kitchings was a standout receiver/return specialist at Furman. As a senior in 1999, he helped the Paladins to a Southern Conference title. He ranks among the school’s all-time leaders in receptions and returns, averaging 29.3 yards per kick return, the second-best mark in conference history, including a school-record four touchdowns. He was a consensus all-Southern Conference selection as both a receiver and returner and earned All-America honors as a return specialist in 1999 after leading the NCAA I-AA division in return average. The youngest inductee into the Furman Athletics Hall of Fame, Kitchings was selected by Kansas City in the 2000 NFL Draft, and spent four years on practice squads and rosters of NFL squads.
Kitchings and his wife, Heather, have three children, Aiden, Ava and Austen.
With the addition of Kitchings, both Bentley and Cox will coach the same position group they had in 2019, with Bentley mentoring the tight ends, while Cox will lead the wide receiver corps, as he did at Colorado State last season.
In his lone season at the tight ends coach, Bentley instructed Kyle Markway, who was the squad’s third-leading receiver with 31 receptions for 349 yards, along with transfer Nick Muse who added 17 catches for 158 yards.
At Colorado State in 2019 with Mike Bobo as the head coach and Cox working with the receivers, the Rams ranked 14th in the nation in passing offense, averaging 305.3 yards per game through the air. Junior wide receiver Warren Jackson averaged 111.9 receiving yards per game, fourth in the country, on 77 receptions with eight touchdowns in 10 games. True freshman wideout Dante Wright added 57 catches for 805 yards.
“It’s good to have coaches on our staff who are versatile and can coach several positions,” noted Coach Muschamp. “Bobby did a fantastic job with the tight ends, while Joe had an outstanding season with the receivers at Colorado State.”